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Severn House, 1994 - Fiction - 242 pages
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The Challenger crew were all born on their starship, had never set foot on a planet but knew that Earth was their spiritual home. So when it vanished from the solar system, their search began to locate the planet that the inhabitants had taken to find a new sun - one that would not become a nova.

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Do us humans accept what we are told? (warning contains spoilers)
Fantastic book and radio series. The radio series of this book has just been aired again on BBC7 and it is super.
The story: Four orphans, living on a spaceship, have been brought up totally by two "guardian" machines. They have known no other life.
A lot of this book seems to be about the subject of control - about what information we accept, why we choose to believe one "truth" rather than another, and the different ways in which people react when faced with a choice of what to believe.
Humans Commander Telson and Sharna are both very conventional in their thinking - Telson especially so. When they are told something by authority, they tend to believe it. Until a point where it cannot sit together comfortably with other info they know to be true. They are both highly logical, especially Sharna, who is the brainiest person on the ship. Both are highly unlikely to do something simply on a whim. When eventually faced with evidence that their guardians, the non-human Angel1 and Angel2, are lying, they do eventually change their ideas, and decide not to go along with convention anymore or hang on to their old beliefs.
Astra is more swayed by feelings than by logic - she gradually gets a bad feeling about how her life is being controlled, and right from the start has an inner wish for freedom from being bossed around, and to feel the world for herself instead of via ideas given to her by a machine. Even without evidence that the angels are lying, she is aware of an inner void that she is looking to fill with something, babies, freedom and a new life. At first, she is very timid, and frightened of questioning the things she has known all her life. But gradually she takes courage to search for her dreams.
Darv is always questioning everything before him. And he is right - Angel1 and Angel2 are not actual angels, they are control programs which have been controlling the 4 humans right from when they were babies, selectively giving them only information which will persuade them to do as the Angel's suggest, or sometimes, simply lying to them.
The book explores the idea of whether this "questioningness" is intrinsically human - in the book, despite his upbringing, nevertheless, Darv looks for the truth, questions, and sees through the Angels. This is even mentioned explicitly towards the end of the book - Darv makes a statement saying that humans will always question things, even if they have been brought up not to.
I like the way that the Angels could be a metaphor for government systems or other bodies of control, constructed by the people themselves, as a sensible tool to look after people, but then taking on a new life of their own, unforseen and unplanned characteristics of their own - in the case of the Angels, a desire to take over the world.
In the last chapter, even though the humans have succeeeded, they suddenly seem more vunerable than at any previous time - at this stage, we have become used to all 4 of the main characters being highly effective, completely adapted to their world of computers, technical wizardry and information, zapping enemies spot on, first shot, and making ingenious plans to manage their air supply, space travel, planet surveillance and even planet restructuring. When Darv and Astra reach Paradise, suddenly they are in a stone-age situation, with no tools or technology to ease their way - they even have to reinvent fire - and they are surely less adapted to such low-tech living even than those of us on earth today. The seem very vunerable at this stage, and although I was elated that they "won", I was still so worried that after their huge achievement travelling throughout space and finding a suitable planet, they could so easily die of a septic cut, food poisoning, childbirth complications, or of sheer ignorance about what is safe or dangerous on the surface of a real planet. Having control of yourselves rather than being looked after by a state system has its

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About the author (1994)

James Follett has written twenty bestselling novels, including The Tiptoe Boys (filmed as Who Dares Wins), over fifty radio and TV scripts and numerous computer games strategies. He created BBC Radio 4's widely acclaimed SF serial, Earthsearch. He lives in England and Spain.

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